Men’s hockey aims to get more physical

by Adam Fink

The official injury report from last weekend’s series against Alabama-Huntsville was two Minnesota men’s hockey players lost for this weekend.

While forwards Jerrid Reinholz and Jon Waibel are out, the unofficial tally from last weekend’s 12-1 and 4-2 sweep is compiled of bumps, bruises and minor injuries.

After two contests with the Chargers and seven total games, the fourth-ranked Gophers (4-1-2, 1-0-1 WCHA) want to increase their physical play on the ice, especially with the conference season about to get into full swing.

The reasoning is the team, which at points this season has been bullied around, won’t take as many hits. This will lead to Minnesota setting its tempo earlier and more often, but one thing it clearly would decrease is the on-ice injuries.

Minnesota will be without four forwards this weekend, including captain Grant Potulny and Barry Tallackson.

“Playing physical helps all aspects of our game,” said senior Matt DeMarchi, who defines his role on the team as an enforcer. “It lets us set our style and it can swing the game into our favor.”

This isn’t the first time the Gophers have needed to question their physical play on the ice.

Early in last year’s NCAA national championship season, players weren’t competing as tough on the boards or as willing to finish checks.

“It took us a while last season to play more physical,” sophomore Keith Ballard said. “When we started playing more physical, it brought our game to another level. We can do that this season too.”

Minnesota’s seven freshmen are also still learning the tricks of the trade.

“There are certain things you can do, and you know you won’t be caught,” Ballard said. “Freshmen don’t know that yet or what it takes to play in the league.”

Don Lucia has coached in the WCHA since his first year at Colorado College in 1993. The Gophers’ fourth-year head man said, especially with the team’s injuries, other players will have to increase their level of play.

The first chance the Gophers have to improve their physical play is Friday night when Minnesota is at Minnesota State, Mankato. The teams will conclude their series Saturday night.

The results from only 11 games between the teams have been one-sided. Minnesota has won eight while tying two games.

This hasn’t deterred Mavericks coach Troy Jutting from remaining upbeat.

“I expect us to come out and play hard,” the Mavericks third-year coach said about his 1-3-2 club. “Win, lose or draw, I think we can give them a good series.”

Friday night’s game begins at 7:35 at the Mankato Civic Center.

Weekend goaltenders

once again, Minnesota will start a different goaltender each night in net against Minnesota State, Mankato.

Lucia doesn’t know which sophomore, Justin Johnson or Travis Weber, will start Friday.

However, Minnesota has started Weber in the opener in each of the last two Friday nights.

Adam Fink covers men’s hockey and welcomes comments at [email protected]